A new statue has been gifted to Lambeth to celebrate Catherine of Braganza – the Portuguese consort of Charles II who made tea drinking popular in Britain. The statue is believe to be the first monument to a person of Portuguese origin in the UK.
The Horta Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Adiaspora.com have offered to present a bust of Catherine of Braganza as a gift from the Islands of the Azores to Lambeth and the Portuguese-speaking community in the borough.
Catherine of Braganza was the Portuguese Infanta, and the Queen consort of Charles II, who as part of her dowry brought Tangier and Bombay under British rule.
She is particularly renowned for introducing the custom of drinking tea in England which was popular with the Portuguese nobility at the time. The tea had been imported to Portugal from Portuguese colonies in Asia as well as through the trade Portuguese merchants maintained with China , India and Japan. Drinking "high tea" at 4pm was popularised by Catherine and is still a Portuguese tradition. Catherine is also said to have introduced the fork and tangerines to the dining tables of England.
The groups behind the initiative already have an Azorean-based Portuguese sculptor who is designing the statue which will be made out of basalt stone. This type of volcanic rock is iconic and the most connoted with the Azores because of the constant volcanic and seismic activity in the archipelago.
Lambeth Council have responded enthusiastically to the idea, with Stockwell Labour Councillor Alex Bigham saying: “This is a fantastic testament to the relationship between Britain and Portugal – the oldest of our alliances. Celebrating Catherine of Braganza reminds of us the shared history of our two nations which is reflected in the vibrant and thriving Portuguese community which we have in Stockwell and the rest of Lambeth.”
Adelina Pereira, a member of the Portuguese community who helped facilitate the gift said, “This artistic endeavour is something that is very close to the heart of the Portuguese people. Although Catherine was initially unpopular because of language difficulties and her Catholic religion, the British public warmed to her because of her decorum and loyalty to her adopted country.”
Lambeth Council officers are currently considering the proposal, and the statue is likely to be situated on Wilcox Road, near the area of Stockwell known as ‘Little Portugal’.